The University of Arizona

Can We Get a Good Radiocarbon Age from "Bad Bone"? Determining the Reliability of Radiocarbon Age from Bioapatite

Alexander Cherkinsky


The study of the radiocarbon age of bone bioapatite was initiated by necessity to date archaeological artifacts, which often contain little or no collagen as a result of poor preservation. Contamination of the organic fraction in the process of the burial or during museum preservation treatment generally prohibits the use of the collagen fraction for dating. Our investigation has shown that the pretreatment of bone with diluted acetic acid following a proscribed technique allows the separation of the bioapatite fraction from diagenetic carbonates. We have successfully used this technique to prepare and date samples of bone and of tooth enamel and dentin, with varying degrees of preservation condition, and from time intervals ranging from a few hundred 14C yr to greater than 40,000 14C yr.

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